Boris Johnson (1964- ) was born in New York, of British parents with Turkish, German and Jewish ancestry. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained a second-class degree but was President of the Oxford Union. He then became a journalist, for the Times, the Daily Telegraph (for whom he was Brussels Correspondent) and the Spectator, which he edited from 1999-2005.
Johnson became MP for Henley in 2001, then in 2008 began two 4-year terms as Mayor of London, a high-profile position with little power created by the Blair government in 1999. He campaigned for the “Leave” side in the 2016 Brexit referendum and then served two years as Foreign Secretary, from which he resigned in protest at May’s proposed EU exit deal. After May’s resignation he ran for the leadership, winning a 2 to 1 majority among the party membership.
Johnson’s, term of office began with two substantial successes: having manoeuvred Cameron’s badly-designed “Fixed-Term Parliaments Act” into a general election, he won a substantial majority over the extremist Jeremy Corbyn (1949- ) and then he finally extracted Britain from the European Union.
His handling of the Covid-19 crisis was statist and mildly inept, but that does not distinguish him for any other of the world’s political leaders. However, he was the only leader to lose his job over it, when a ridiculous scandal over a drinks party resulted in referral to a House of Commons Committee packed with leftists.
Johnson made two gigantic mistakes as prime minister, which prevents our mourning him too much, despite the illegitimate nature of his removal. First, he was over-impressed by a civil service paper on the “climate change” nonsense, imposing a ridiculous objective of reaching “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, thus condemning the economy to ever-escalating costs and intermittent energy supplies and dooming the living standards of ordinary Britons. A better and less arrogant prime minister would have realized that, as a liberal arts major, he was likely to be over-impressed by a well written paper and completely unable to evaluate the science underlying it, the weakest part of which is the most technical: the distortions introduced by mathematical models forecasting half a century forward, written and easily fudged by those attempting to produce a politically desired outcome.
Johnson then compounded his error by entering wholeheartedly into the defence of Ukraine, propagating myths about the “democracy” of Ukraine’s corrupt and oligarchic government and failing to determine a policy to end that war, or to prevent Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin from cosying up to China Xi Jinping, thus producing an anti-Western “Axis” like that of the late 1930s, with possibly irretrievably bad results.
His ultimate ranking will be determined by whether the Brexit he brought Britain survives his socialist successors; his climate change and Ukraine errors make that survival highly doubtful. What a pity; he had the capability to be, if not a great prime minister, at least a good one.